THE European Parliament's Agriculture Committee began the process of shaping the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by voting yesterday on reports on direct payments and rural development.

Speaking from Brussels, committee member Alyn Smith MEP said: "We've seen some good results for Scottish farmers, most notably on greening, which has been made considerably more flexible in light of the amendments to what the commission originally proposed.

"We've also seen the herbaceous issue put to rest, with a good definition of permanent pasture agreed upon. New entrants have definitely seen the CAP move in the right direction, with guarantees of support contained within Article 21 and within the passages on the National Reserve – which is really excellent news.

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"Importantly, too, the so-called Scottish Clause in Article 9 to tighten the definition of active farming was successful, which I hope will work to lend the CAP a greater degree of legitimacy among the public."

On capping single-farm payments, the committee voted in line with commission proposals to set a cap of €300,000.

The committee also voted in favour of a flexibility mechanism (Article 14). It will allow member states to transfer up to 15% of their national ceilings from Pillar I to Pillar II. However, if direct payments are implemented at a regional level (as in Scotland), this decision on modulation can be taken by the region. The UK can also transfer up to 10% of Pillar I funds to Pillar II.

Jonnie Hall, NFU Scotland director of policy, was opposed to that move, and said: "Any form of modulation from Pillar I within an undoubtedly tighter CAP budget threatens to undermine many Scottish farms.

"Pillar II funding should be supported more fully from the outset by using more appropriate criteria to allocate funds, so that Scotland does not sit at the bottom of the Pillar II funding table."

The committee meets again tomorrow and then, in a few weeks' time, the EU parliament will vote on its proposals.

The Cumberland & Dumfriesshire Farmers' Mart had 23 prime cattle forward at its weekly sale in Dumfries yesterday, when bullocks averaged 223.5p per kg and heifers levelled at 212.5p.

Fifty OTM cattle went through the rough ring, with beef cows averaging 123.2p and dairy cows levelling at 105.1p.

The firm also sold 627 prime hoggs to a top of £67 per head and 172p per kg to average 142.6p. The 163 cast sheep forward saw ewes sell to £83.50 for Texels and £44.50 for Blackfaces.

Craig Wilson had 1251 prime hoggs forward in Newton Stewart yesterday that sold to £77 and 180.5p, and averaged 134.5p (-3.3p on the week).

There were also 158 cast sheep on offer that were easier on the week, with ewes selling to £80 for Texels and £38 for Blackfaces.